When you open your heart and soul and life to God, you enter another life, another bloodstream, another cosmic river. This river takes all who swim in it to the sea of Heaven. But not everyone jumps into that river. It’s a free choice. – Peter Kreeft, How to be Holy: First Steps in Becoming a Saint
If you’re not familiar with Peter Kreeft, my suggestion would be that you find any or all of his books and begin reading. Despite the fact that he is a philosopher (and philosophers can be incredibly difficult to read or listen to or understand), Kreeft (who teaches at the Catholic-Boston College) is quite understandable and – even more important – greatly helpful in helping us understand the Catholic Faith.
In his book, How to be Holy, Kreeft lays out a rather simple plan in a rather small book. He bases many of his comments here on the writings of Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), a Jesuit priest.
I know what you’re thinking. I can tell what your objections may be. Let’s examine them.
- Objection 1: A 17th century priest? Really?? How relevant could this stuff be to MY life? If we were talking about cooking or medicine, this objection would be well-founded. However, the matters of faith are constant whether you just got off the Ark, are being chased by a saber-toothed tiger or fondly remembering your acid-washed jeans. Both practically and theologically, the truths of faith remain the same. What Cain and Abel struggled with is exactly the same as what you and I struggle with. The only difference is that we have Christ. (And yes, we acknowledge that this is a tremendous difference.)
- Objection 2: I don’t have any time to read! That’s too bad. First of all, reading good quality books is far better for the soul than an evening spent watching reruns of sitcoms. Padre Pio, the saintly Italian priest, said, “If the reading of holy books had the power to convert worldly men into spiritual persons, how very powerful must not such reading be in leading spiritual men and women to greater perfection?” If you are serious about your faith, you should read about your faith.
- Objection 3: Um, I don’t really want another “life” or jump into some “cosmic river.” I’m happy just where I’m at, thanks. There is no doubt you are happy. But happiness is not the same as joy, which is a point all the saints understand. As one writer puts it:
Happiness is easily taken away when the “state of well-being” ceases; in times of hardship, trial, or need, happiness seems elusive. Something more satisfying is needed than the mere pleasure or contentment associated with happiness.
Joy, in contrast, is defined as an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness or the expression of such feelings. The antonym of joy is “sorrow.” “Enjoying” (related to happiness) is not the same thing as “rejoicing.” Joy has several deeper meanings than happiness, which are further clarified in Holy Scriptures.
Kreeft goes on to say that choosing not to swim in this “cosmic river” is an insane choice. Yep: insane. Why? Because that choice leads to Hell.
In order to choose Hell, you must be insane: you must choose misery over joy. Why would you do that? Because you can understand and control misery but not joy. This is insane. But it is what we all do in some degree whenever we sin. For all sin is choosing misery over joy. We are all insane. That is what Original Sin means. But God deeply loves His severely brain-damaged children. If He did not, we would have no hope. But He does, and therefore we do.
- Objection 4: I don’t want to jump in that river. I just don’t want to. And no one can make me. On this last point, you are right. Not even Almighty, Eternal God Who Is Love can make you. He won’t sneak up behind you and push you. He won’t spend all of His time trying to cajole you into just sticking your big toe in. Nope.And no one else can do that either. If someone who loves you, thinking this is the best for you, tries to yank you in, it won’t matter. It only matters if we enter the river of our own free will.Now, that doesn’t mean we might still have doubts. Or that we might climb out and some point (stupidly) and then get back in again (smartly). But we all must understand: this cosmic river of truth and love and joy and peace and unity with God is the only way to Heaven. To not get in is to choose Hell, which is eternal misery.
What are you waiting for? Go jump in that river!